(This devotion is day seven of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Psalm 103
I have a few shirts in my closet that don’t fit like they used to. I’m sure it’s because they’ve been through the dryer too many times, not because I’ve outgrown them. I can squeeze into them but it’s a little too snug for comfort. I only wear them in the safe, non-judgmental confines of my house. Because they don’t get used often, these shirts need washed again to rid them of that stale, dusty odor.
Our hearts are similar. As gratitude fades through forgetfulness, there’s a musty, sour smell coming out from our heart in the unpleasing aromas of grumbling, complaining, and murmuring.
All of us are prone to forget how good we have it. We fall for the “grass is greener somewhere else” lie. Like children bored with their toys, apathy for God’s blessings sets in. Gratitude for answered prayer fades. Spiritual lessons learned through God’s curriculum of truth and trials must be learned again.
“Forgetfulness and ingratitude go hand in hand.” To combat this, we must remember all God has done and all the benefits of life with Him. Forgetfulness will happen unless we intentionally keep memories fresh. When your heart grows stale, go into the closet of your memory and pull out past examples of what God has done for you. Rinse and repeat until the pleasing aroma of gratitude replaces the stench of ingratitude.
A Spiritual Inventory
David seeks to do this by taking a spiritual inventory for Israel. A retail employee might walk through each aisle, noting what’s on the shelf. In Psalm 103, David begins a series of Psalms taking stock of God’s love and faithfulness by strolling through Israel’s history. He recounts to them God’s accomplishments and faithfulness.
You and I need spiritual reminders. Familiarity with biblical truths can lead to a calloused heart. The shine of God’s gifts wears out if we’re not regularly polishing them through polishing our memories. For hearts that grow cold because they’re not warming themselves over the fires of gratitude, Psalm 103 supplies the oxygen to stoke the flames. Consider again who God is, what He’s done for you, and all you have in Him. “Forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
This psalm of praise bookends with the plea, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” I encourage you to pray through it in its entirety. Read a phrase or verse, consider where you’ve experienced this truth of God, and tell Him thank you.
Here are a few prompts to get started.
Thank God for Holiness
Praise God for His holiness (103:1). A person’s name captures who they are. God’s “holy name” tells us holiness defines Him to His core. He is perfect and pure. There isn’t the slightest impurity in Him. There’s nothing in God but goodness, righteousness, justice, and the full perfection of all His attributes. As God, He is separate from us; above and beyond us. He is the high and exalted one, and with the angels we fall on our face and cry “Holy, holy, holy” (Is. 6:3; Rev. 4:8).
Thanks God for Forgiveness
God forgives all your iniquities or sins (103:3). If you’re not a believer in Christ, you can be forgiven. If you are a believer in Christ, you have been forgiven, and not just for some things but for all things, fully and forever. Jesus took your sin on himself at the cross (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). There is no sin too big or too dark that his perfect blood can’t wash it away. It might sound like one of those too good to be true infomercials, but God promised it is true.
Because you’re forgiven and accepted through Christ’s righteousness, God is for you. There is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). We should feel no guilt or shame—despite our enemy trying to heap it on us—because Jesus erased our guilt and shame. He didn’t sweep it under the rug but carried it on his two shoulders.
Even death itself loses its ultimate sting. We will live with Jesus forever because he dealt with our sin and its penalty. Jesus removes our chains and unlocks our prison door so we can live in the freedom he purchased.
A few verses later, David writes, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:10–12). Forgiveness of sin rises to the top of the list of benefits not to forget. Thank God for planning, purchasing, and providing such a gift.
Thank God for Healing
God also “heals all your diseases” (103:3). This can include physical healing (Matt. 8:14–17), something many Christians experience. But throughout the Bible, this phrase refers to God restoring or healing something in our life. We are like Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head, always falling apart and broken in some way. God makes us whole and puts us back together, little by little.
This phrase likely connects to the first half of the verse and the mention of our iniquities, or sins (see Is. 53:5). Though our sin corrupts, wounds, and hurts us, God by His wonderful grace restores and heals us. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3)
The Bible gives us the mental picture of God being a good Shepherd, who carries His sheep safely to a place where He can make them whole. “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak” (Ez. 34:15–16; see also Jer. 3:22; Hos. 14:4).
That’s only the first three verses, but I hope it provides a model of how we might meditate on this Psalm with gratitude. Read through this Psalm and respond in prayers of praise and thanksgiving.
Where have you experienced God’s healing or restoration in your life? What wounds has He lovingly cared for? What work has He done in you? Don’t forget these benefits. Give thanks.
 Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Choosing Gratitude (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 54 on kindle.
To go deeper in biblical thanksgiving and understand how it leads us to know and enjoy God, check out my book The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of A Lost Spiritual Discipline.